A surprising amount of plastic pollution in the ocean may wind up in a previously overlooked spot: the skeletons of living corals.
Up to about 20,000 metric tons of tiny fragments called microplastics may be stored in coral skeletons worldwide every year, says ecologist Jessica Reichert of Justus Liebig University Giessen in Germany. That corresponds to nearly 3 percent of the microplastics estimated to be in the shallow, tropical waters where corals thrive.
Corals have been observed eating or otherwise incorporating microplastics into their bodies (SNS: 3/18/15). But scientists don’t know how much of the debris reefs take up globally. So Reichert and colleagues exposed corals in the lab
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